Truck driving safety

In 2019, the National Transport Insurance company found that the number of truck driver fatalities more than doubled in 2019 when compared to any year over the past decade. The same report also found cars were responsible for about 80 per cent of deadly multi-vehicle crashes involving trucks, though, truck drivers were less likely to be killed in these scenarios. And young drivers (18-25 years old) were four times more likely to be involved in serious or fatal crashes.
Considering that trucks transport about 75 per cent of Australia’s domestic freight, and that figure is expected to double by 2030 (meaning, more trucks will be on our roads), Australians need a two-sided educational approach to truck safety. One that encompasses how to share the road with trucks safely and how truck drivers can minimise the associated risks of their job.

How drivers can safely share the road with trucks:
There are several things car drivers can do to prevent accidents when sharing the road with heavy vehicles.

Be aware of truck blind spots. On average, trucks have four blind spots. These are directly in front of the truck, beside the truck driver’s door, on the passenger side (this one runs the entire length of the truck and extends out three lanes!), and 10 metres behind the truck.

Keep your distance and give plenty of notice. Trucks are heavy, which means they are slower to stop than a car. Considering it will take longer for a truck to stop, and they have multiple blind spots, keeping your distance and giving plenty of notice for turns and stops is vital.

Lane changes can be dangerous. Avoid unnecessary lane changes and stick to your side of the road, away from heavy vehicles, for the simple reason that trucks cannot easily get out of your way. Likewise, when a truck needs to change lanes, give the vehicle plenty of space.

Don’t be a distracted driver. Mobile phones, food packaging, stereo systems and fatigue can all contribute to potentially fatal accidents. Avoid distractions by keeping your mobile phone in the boot, pre-tuning your radio, setting your playlist in advance or pulling over for snacks. Regular stops where you stretch your body, walk or jog will also prevent fatigue and cramped muscles.

How truck drivers can mitigate risk:
No person should ever go to work and not return home, but unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Accidents happen, and according to a 12-year study by Monash University, being an Australian truck drive puts you at 13 times more risk of dying at work than other Australian workers. Truck driving is one of Australia’s most dangerous jobs. While the logistics industry continues to advance digital technology aimed at improving driver safety, here’s what you can do right now to minimise your risk of accidents.

Always drive to the speed limit. Every job has deadlines, and part of a truck drivers job is to get to your destination on time. But no one is going to benefit from an accident, so please, follow the speed limits and adjust your driving speed to suit the conditions.

Avoid driving fatigued. Get plenty of sleep whenever possible, and follow the industry regulations about how many hours you can drive without breaking. If you need to break more frequently: do so. A tired driver is a dangerous driver. Regular exercise, plenty of water, and light, healthy snacks instead of heavy meals can also improve driver energy levels (see our previous blog here).

Stay focused. Whether you’re driving a bike, car or truck, drivers need to avoid distractions like mobile phones and radios.

Know what you are transporting. For truck drivers who are contracted to various clients and transport a range of materials, it’s important always to check what exactly you are transporting before you start driving. This way, you can adjust your driving to suit your cargo, particularly if you are transporting hazardous goods. You should also know the weight, height or length of your cargo to ensure the load is correctly distributed.

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